Partial Reversal of a Denial of Rule 11 Motion for Sanctions Against Attorneys

By FindLaw Staff on May 20, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Peer v. Lewis, No. 09-10882, concerned a case arising from a contentious Florida election, a district court's order denying defendant's request for sanctions against three attorneys who represented plaintiff in the underlying matter.  The court of appeals affirmed in part, on the grounds that 1) defendant's motion for Rule 11 sanctions was untimely because the district court had already rejected the offensive pleading at the time defendant moved for sanctions; and 2) counsel did not delay the judicial proceedings after he filed the offending complaint.  However, the court reversed in part, holding that 1) the district court failed to address defendant's Rule 11 motion for sanctions against certain attorneys; and 2) there was overwhelming evidence that one attorney knowingly pursued a frivolous claim, and thus acted in bad faith.

As the court wrote:  "Daniel Lewis ("Lewis") appeals the district court's order denying sanctions against the three attorneys who represented his political rival, James Peer ("Peer"). Although Lewis filed numerous motions for sanctions during the pendency of this case, he only appeals the disposition of two of these motions: (1) his July 9, 2007, motion for sanctions against Peer's original counsel, Richard L. Rosenbaum ("Rosenbaum"), pursuant to Rule 11, 28 U.S.C. § 1927, and the court's inherent power; and (2) his October 10, 2006, motion for sanctions against Barry G. Roderman ("Roderman") and Scott M. Greenbaum ("Greenbaum") pursuant to Rule 11.

On appeal, Lewis argues that Rosenbaum's conduct is sanctionable because he knowingly filed a baseless Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") claim in federal court. Similarly, Lewis contends Roderman and Greenbaum violated Rule 11 by representing Peer in his meritless federal suit. Rosenbaum claims that he had a reasonable basis to file suit because (1) there was "suspicious" access which showed on Peer's credit report, (2) Lewis filed his state court complaint with ¶ 19, which mentioned Peer's credit report, and (3) Lewis refused to disclose the source of his information in interviews with the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel Digest newspapers. Roderman and Greenbaum did not respond to Lewis' appeal or appear at oral arguments. For the reasons stated below, this Court will affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion."

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